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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

NC trend: Replacements Ltd. stays current

Replacements Ltd. founder and CEO Bob Page turned 78 in April. He’s had three ankle replacements, a partial knee cap replacement and prostate surgery. He’s blind in his right eye.

But two bags of trail mix and a box of health food bars sit on a table behind his desk at the company’s McLeansville headquarters, 10 miles east of Greensboro. Page works out an hour a day in his home gym and complains that he’s recently added some weight to his thin 142-pound frame. “I can’t imagine Bob not working,” says chief marketing officer Linh Calhoun.

After starting Replacements in 1981 in Greensboro, Page shows no signs of slowing down. A former accountant for the state, he scours estate sales and Goodwill locations. During the past year, he’s been developing software to make price changes based on marketplace trends. As he scans his office computer, he quickly rattles off daily sales statistics.

Replacements has changed with the market. Although china still makes up more than 60% of sales, crystal is now 12% of sales, as is stainless silverware. Sterling silver is 6% of sales, collectibles is 3%, and estate jewelry — think Rolex watches and diamond earrings — is another 3%. The company also restores and repairs silver.

Sales in 2022 were just north of $90 million, down from a record of nearly $100 million in 2021, which Page credits to COVID-19. “We had people sitting at home with time on their hands, dining more, cooking more, on the computer looking at our website,” says Page.

The company operates from a 500,000-square-foot facility. More than 370 employees peruse 60,000 shelves of discontinued and current china and plate patterns, crystal and flatware. Replacements ships 2,000 to 2,500 orders each day, though from Nov. 15 to Jan. 15 that number rises to 6,000 packages daily. 

More than 30% of what Replacements sells are still active patterns, though it stocks more than 300,000 discontinued patterns. Its website, where 90% of its sales are derived, allows customers to take a picture of a plate to determine the name of the pattern they’re looking for. Replacements’ network of 450 suppliers scour estate sales and stores for items. 

“What people are looking for is changing,” says Page. “Some of the older patterns from 25 to 30 years ago, the demand has declined,” while patterns from Pier One, Crate & Barrel and Williams Sonoma are popular. Adds President Scott Fleming: “High-end patterns have held up very well.”

Page started by placing classified ads in Southern Living and Better Homes and Gardens,  offering to help people complete their china sets from his attic. In 1981, he sold $250,000 worth of china. Within four years, sales grew to $4 million. It moved to its current location in 1989 and added 200,000 square feet in 2011. Estate jewelry was added in 2018. Replacements also makes handcrafted items – taking a handle and turning it into a tomato server — and sells several thousand dollars worth each day, notes Page.

Page also operates his Bob’s Closet clothing charity out of the back of Replacements. It delivered more than 50,000 pieces of clothing last year. In other words, he’s not slowing down.

“I don’t know what I’d do” in retirement, says Page. “I would be bored to death. I’m not ready for that rocking chair. I’m out on the road lifting heavy boxes.”

Chris Roush
Chris Roush
Chris Roush is executive editor of Business North Carolina. He can be reached at croush@businessnc.com.

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